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Social media is about fast customer service, not just chat

10th June 2017
three people using social media on train platform

The “feedback” British Airways’ customers have recently provided via social media, and the airline’s largely inadequate responses, remind me of how big businesses can still get social very wrong.

Too many consumer-focused businesses treat social as a tactical engagement channel. It should actually be a pillar of their customer engagement strategy. Here’s my thoughts on where they are going wrong, and what needs to change.

Customer service

Increasingly, customers expect instantaneous feedback through social channels, particularly Facebook or Twitter. Even more so if they’ve made a purchase online.

But many brands operate with 24-hour response times. This is simply not good enough. It leaves the brand owner exposed as customers grow angrier by the minute.

Customer frustration turns into word of web. Word of mouth has the potential to reach dozens of other consumers, but word of web could easily reach a few thousand on Facebook.

And if it gets picked up by the press it could go further. This week H&M has had much press coverage after a young customer, Lowri Byrne, used the brand’s Facebook page to highlight sizing issues. Lowri showed her struggle to squeeze herself into a size 16 H&M dress, when she normally wears a size 12.

Meanwhile, United Airlines saw exactly how bad word of web gets, when a video of an elderly customer being forcibly removed from a plane was replayed online around the world.

Today, treating an individual customer badly can knock $1 billion off your market capitalisation. The fear of a social media backlash should impact on the standard of the offline customer service you deliver too.


This is the opportunity to promote products or services and engage with customers, ultimately to drive sales. sells fridge freezers, tumble dryers and washing machines – not the most exciting products – yet its focus on fun, content-led social marketing means it has around 1.7 million followers on Facebook, over 150,000 views of videos on YouTube every week and significant engagement across all social channels. founder and ex-CEO John Roberts’ dedication to sending customers written replies to customer complaints also pushed many customers back onto social to sing his company’s praises, even if their initial experience was negative.


Think about how you use social to build your employer brand too. When was the last time you checked Glassdoor to see what your employees really think about you? Prospective employees increasingly will be, so if you want the best candidates then your HR team needs a strategy to ensure your reviews are positive.


Retailers want to build relationships with their customers, ultimately so they become loyal and buy more. But if you sell one or limited product categories then there’s limited opportunities for engagements.

Clever brands don’t let this stop them.

Jeweller Tiffany introduced the #TiffanyBlue hashtag on Instagram, that encourages anyone posting a picture that includes its duck egg blue brand colour to add the hashtag. It’s since been used nearly 350,000 times, and allows fans of its brand to enter the conversation even when they are not active customers.


Social media isn’t simply about being social. It’s a core strategic opportunity for your business and, as such, needs to be taken more seriously.


This article was first published by RetailWeek on June 6th, 2017. Read it again here.

The article was also reproduced on LinkedIn on June 6th, 2017. Like and share it here.

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